Ethics: When You Behave Like You Believe – Proverbs 21:3


“To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3, NIV).

Sometimes we don’t behave consistently with what we believe–or we claim to believe. What we purport is not how we comport!

Our behavior is defined by our beliefs–what we really, really believe, not what we say we believe.

It’s called ethics.

When we are more concerned with pleasing others, going along, or not standing out from the crowd than we are about doing the right thing, then we compromise what we believe.  We behave unethically.

And, it begs the question: If you don’t behave it, do you really believe it?

The wisdom writer made this point quite clear: Being religious isn’t the same thing as being righteous.

Doing what is right is more important to God than doing religious things like going to the temple and offering a sacrifice or going to church and and putting money in the offering plate.

Think about it. If God already owns everything,  why does He need our sacrifice?

He doesn’t, it’s for us!

Sacrifice is an act of worship to teach us how to love God and live for Him. It’s about giving–giving our possessions, our will, our bodies, our being–to Him, for Him. It’s about God being Lord and King of our lives.

If you really believe and accept that He is Lord and King over your life, then you will act like it; you will do what is right and just because God is right and just.

Your belief is a compass for your behavior. You know to behave because you know what you believe–because you know in Whom you believe!

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1, NIV)

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Annoying God – Genesis 32:24-30

“So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ … Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.'” (Genesis 32:22-30, NIV).

The method Jacob used here to obtain God’s blessing seems rather counter-intuitive to our innocuous efforts in seeking God. While we think we must approach God with religious formality and terminology to obtain His blessing, Jacob used an alternative methodology.  Jacob wrestled with and held on to God until God blessed him.

Prior to his wrestling match with God, Jacob was in the throes of a dilemma. God had commanded him to repatriate the land He had promised to Jacob’s father and grandfather, Isaac and Abraham. But, in order to do so Jacob had to confront his estranged brother, Esau–from whom Jacob had stolen his birthright–and Esau’s army of 400 men.

Anticipating a disastrous outcome to his rendezvous with Esau, Jacob had taken his family to a safe place. Then, Jacob proceeded to a place where he could be alone to seek God and plead for deliverance from Esau and reassure himself that he was doing God’s will by returning to the promised land. There, he encountered a man (an angel or theophany) and wrestled with him all night.

Jacob knew that he was wrestling with God (or God’s messenger) and gripped Him until the man promised God’s protection and deliverance on his journey to and settlement in the promised land. Despite the man wounding Jacob’s hip, Jacob continued to grasp the man until He agreed to bless him.

Jacob was what you might call indefatigable. Indefatigable means not yielding to fatigue, incapable of being tired out. Tireless or persistence is the more common way to describe this trait. Annoying and even obnoxious is this attribute carried to the extreme.

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The Wrestling Match – Genesis 32:27-31

“He said to Jacob, ‘What’s your name?’ and he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then he said, ‘Your name won’t be Jacob any longer, but Israel, because you struggled with God and with men and won.’ Jacob also asked and said, ‘Tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why do you ask for my name?’ and he blessed Jacob there. Jacob named the place Peniel, ‘because I’ve seen God face-to-face, and my life has been saved.’ The sun rose as Jacob passed Penuel, limping because of his thigh” (Genesis 32:27-31,CEB).

I once heard it preached that choosing to believe Jesus was the Son of God and died for our sins so we could have eternal life was more plausible than choosing not to believe.  Because, if you believed and got to the end of your life and it wasn’t true, you still lived a good life with no regrets. But, if you didn’t believe and it was true then you risked a dreadful eternity.

In other words, it is more logical (and eternally safe) to believe in God than not to believe. And, we get to choose…

While our modern minds try to analyze everything, even faith in God, and make it logical and rational and human-centric, the biblical pattern is actually something quite different: God chooses us and we choose whether to accept His challenge or not.

And, it’s not like a debate.

It’s more like a wrestling match!

In fact, struggling with God is the normal Christian life.

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It’s Providential – Genesis 30

Simply stated, providence is God’s intervention in His creation. The theological concept of providence incorporates the foreseeing care and guidance of God. In fact, the Latin root of the English word has the sense of  knowledge of the future.

So, because God knows the future, He controls the present.

Providence is probably the main point in which a biblical worldview comes into conflict with contemporary worldviews. Certainly, the Old Testament worldview was more respective of God’s providence than is the modern, scientific view that asks “Why” and “How” about every occurrence in life and nature.

The Old Testament writers seem to have a rich understanding of God’s providence. To the Old Testament writer, it’s all providential!

The two major events from the life of Jacob described in Genesis 30 illustrate the Old Testament perspective of providence.

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Folding – Romans 12:1-2

sheet_of_paper“So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.” (Romans 12:1-2, CEB).

This meditation is a hands-on lesson in how God works in our lives. Give it a try.

  1. Take a blank sheet of paper and in the middle of the sheet of paper write in large letters:

MY WILL

  1. Then in the top left-hand corner write in smaller letters:

GOD’S
PERFECT
WILL

  1. Fold the paper in half folding the bottom half behind and to the top so that the words are still showing.
  2. Then fold the paper in half folding the right half behind and to the left so that the words are still showing.
  3. Again, fold the paper in half folding the bottom half behind and to the top so that the words are still showing.
  4. And, again fold the paper in half folding the right half behind and to the left so that the words are still showing.
  5. You should  now have a small square of paper in your hands that is 1/16th of the original paper size with the words printed on it: GOD’S PLAN FOR MY LIFE. These words probably fill or almost fill the small square of paper in your hand.

Here’s the point of this exercise:

We like to think of God’s will as something that is being revealed a little at a time. It’s like something we discover as if it is unfolding before us.

Actually, finding God’s will is more like folding than unfolding. It’s more like the displacement of our own will in favor of God’s will. It’s a place God leads us, not a place we discover.

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Resident Evil, Part 3 – Genesis 3:15

good_evil“I will put contempt between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers. They will strike your head, but you will strike at their heels.”” (Genesis 3:15, CEB).

Evil in the Old Testament is not personified as it is in the New Testament. Depending on your interpretation of the Hebrew word for Satan, meaning adversary, the term is more often a designation than a proper name in the Old Testament.

The Apostle Paul associates the serpent in Genesis 3 with a personified devil: “But I’m afraid that your minds might be seduced in the same way as the snake deceived Eve with his devious tricks. You might be unable to focus completely on a genuine and innocent commitment to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3, CEB).

The Apostle John clearly delineates the Tempter in the Garden of Eden as Satan or the devil: “So the great dragon was thrown down. The old snake, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world, was thrown down to the earth; and his angels were thrown down with him” (Revelation 12:9, CEB). The word “old” here refers to the fact that Satan’s appearance on Earth was at an early stage of the world’s history and has long been occupied with the task of deceiving and opposing God’s elect.

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Resident Evil, Part 2 – Genesis 4:3-7

good_evil“Some time later, Cain presented an offering to the Lord from the land’s crops while Abel presented his flock’s oldest offspring with their fat. The Lord looked favorably on Abel and his sacrifice but didn’t look favorably on Cain and his sacrifice. Cain became very angry and looked resentful. The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why do you look so resentful? If you do the right thing, won’t you be accepted? But if you don’t do the right thing, sin will be waiting at the door ready to strike! It will entice you, but you must rule over it’” (Genesis 4:3-7, CEB).

Evil is a corruption of good and seems to be a necessary condition of God’s love and plan for redemption (see Part 1).  There can’t be a love relationship with God if there’s not a choice to love Him, or not!

God has given people the choice to do good or not do good.

Then, maybe evil isn’t all bad?

In the Old Testament evil is sometimes directly attributed to God. For example, “Then an evil spirit from the Lord came over Saul” (1 Samuel 19:9, CEB).

From the perspective of the Old Testament writers, all actions and events in heaven and on the earth emanate from God. In other words, God’s “will” rules over His creation.

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